“Talk about a place that’s booming – this is it!”
So says Stamford Director of Economic Development Thomas Madden, and it is difficult to take issue with his enthusiasm. The city currently has more than $6 billion worth of commercial and residential development underway, has a growing population and employment rate, and recently placed 64th on data aggregating website Stacker’s list of the “100 Best Cities to Raise a Family” – the only Connecticut municipality to make the tally, and easily trouncing such nationally better-known names as Orlando, Denver and Dallas.
“That speaks volumes about where the state is going and what Stamford is doing,” Madden said.
Described by the Business Journal a year ago as “Fairfield County’s crown jewel,” Stamford’s luster continues to shine ever brighter. The city led the county’s leasing activity in 2019, with its central business district accounting for nearly 1.2 million square feet of the county’s total leasing volume of 3.2 million square feet.
WWE announced in March that it was leaving its 1241 E. Main St. headquarters in Stamford and signing a 16½-year lease for the 415,000-square-foot, three-building complex at 677 Washington Blvd. It expects to complete that move in the spring of 2021.
Other highlights of 2019 included:
• Diageo’s relocation of its North American headquarters from 810 Main Ave. in Norwalk to 40,000 square feet of office space at 200 Elm St. in Stamford.
• Cenveo’s 25,590-square-foot renewal at 200 First Stamford Place.
• Ernst & Young renewing approximately 25,000 square feet at 300 First Stamford Place.
• Two new deals totaling 37,000 square feet by Thomson Reuters and Wexford Capital, at 677 Washington Blvd.
In addition, two companies have relocated to Stamford, both of them in the consumer goods industry and both at 1 Dock Street. Canidae Pet Food signed a 16,700-square-foot lease, relocating its headquarters from Norco, California, and Cholula Hot Sauce signed for 11,600 square feet and is relocating from New York City.
Manhattan’s unscripted television production company Lucky 8 is also coming to Stamford, and episodes of HBO competition series “Legendary” are being filmed there, Madden added.
“Our vacancy rate is an overall 5% throughout the town,” Madden said. “And we’re not a big-box place — we have a lot of mom-and-pop stores. That speaks volumes about the healthy market we have.”
It’s not all good news, however.
In October came word that Stamford Town Center, the 853,000-square-foot mall at 100 Greyrock Place, was being sold by owner Taubman Centers. The struggling shopping center has lost a number of retail occupants to Norwalk’s SoNo Collection of late, though Madden took exception to reports that there was a mass exodus taking place.
“First, a lot of stores left due to closing because of the financial situation of their corporations,” he said. “And the SoNo Collection is offering at least some of their tenants three years free or reduced rent, and the buildout of a new storefront. That makes moving there very, very profitable.”
As for what the ultimate destiny might be for the Stamford Town Center, Madden vehemently rejected the oft-floated idea that it could be converted into additional housing for UConn students.
“I’m so tired of being asked about that,” he declared. “UConn is not going anywhere near the mall.”
Instead, he said, “several ownership groups” have been in contact about possibly purchasing the parcel. Madden said he believed it could ultimately be redeveloped as a mixed-use property, but that Taubman was still in its due diligence phase of 180 days.
On the residential side, Allure — a 435-unit multifamily project at 850 Pacific St. — opened in September and residents began moving in to the 464-unit Urby Stamford at 1 Greyrock Place in October.
There were more than 5,400 apartment units and more than 900,000 square feet of commercial office space in development throughout the city at the end of the third quarter, Madden said.
The city’s unemployment rate stands at about 3.1% compared with 3.6% in 2018. Stamford’s mean household income stands at more than $134,000 and its median at nearly $85,000.
Madden is also a prime mover behind the Fairfield Five, a partnership formed by the chief elected officials and their economic development directors of Stamford, Norwalk, Fairfield, Greenwich and Westport. The group’s primary goal is to generate economic growth and employment opportunities in lower Fairfield County, in part by wooing firms from New York City.
He said the collective was hoping to receive some funding from the Connecticut General Assembly during its short legislative session, which is scheduled to run from Feb. 5 through May 6.